Constellation Observations Activity (Project 4)
Location is Odenton, MD
This is a very straightforward and easy project. Use star charts or your planisphereto identify any five constellations in the real night sky. If you live in a big city, you will only be able to see bright constellations or you will need to drive to a darker location. The Winter constellations are reasonably bright and there are bright ones in the Summer sky as well, so you shouldn’t have much trouble locating the five required. Start by locating Polaris (the North Star) by using the pole pointers at the edge of the bowl of the big dipper (Ursa Major). The Little Dipper (part of Ursa Minor) stars are quite faint except for Polaris, so you won’t be able to see that if you have light pollution.
Please describe where you observed from and the sky conditions at your observing site. Use the GPS application on your smart phone to determine the coordinates of your observing location. Identify the city and/or community and what equipment, if any, you used. If you observed from home, tell me so and make sure that you sent me your address as I requested at the beginning of the class. Did you use binoculars or some other observing aid?
Submit the names of the five constellations you found, describe how you found Polaris, and comment about how easy (or hard) it was to use the star charts to locate constellations.
Do the constellations in the sky look like the ones on the star charts or planisphere? If not, how do they differ?
You can write a separate document or append your answers to this document and submit it to your assignment folder.
See below for detailed instructions on how to use your planisphere.
Night Sky planisphere:
The following is a description of how to use a planisphere just in case you decide to acquire one.
Notice that there’s a wheel that turns. Around the outside of the wheel are dates. Outside of the wheel are times of day (or night). If you turn the wheel so that the current date lines up with the current time, the planisphere will show you what constellations are visible and what part of the sky they are in. To match up the constellations visible on the planisphere with the real sky, stand outside and hold the planisphere over your head and oriented in the right direction (so that “east” on the planisphere is toward the east, “west” is toward the west, etc.). The easiest thing to do is to face South and hold the planisphere over your head such that the North direction points toward the North Star (Polaris). You may need a flashlight when using it outside at night. Unfortunately, the average flashlight is bright enough to keep your eyes from dark adapting so that you can see fainter stars. Therefore, it is recommended that you cover the front of a flashlight with red cellophane when trying to make astronomical observations. Several layers of the clear red cling plastic wrap will work very well for this. You will ease the discomfort of your observing greatly if you set up a lawn chair (preferably a lounge chair) and tilt it back so that you can look up to the sky comfortably.
The Stellarium software (or any planetarium program) can also be fun to use for help with observations. You can bring up the program at the correct time for when you are observing, then print the sky and take the chart outside to help you locate objects.